Archive for the ‘History’ Category

History of the United States Flows through Fairfax County, Virginia

The history of the United States flows through Fairfax County, Virginia. Two of our Founding Fathers called the county home, George Washington and George Mason. Washington and Mason were the brains behind the Fairfax Resolves, the first document to outline the colonies’ grievances against England.

historic courthouse 600But it goes much further back than that. Capt. John Smith explored the Potomac River area of the county as far north as Great Falls in 1609, shortly after the founding of Jamestown. And, it didn’t end with our first president’s death, either. The first turnpike in America, a 15-mile stretch of Little River Turnpike, ran through the county to Washington, DC.

The Historic Fairfax County Courthouse opened in 1800, the same year as the U.S. Capitol and the White House. And, of course, one of the first land battles in the Civil War occurred at the courthouse, which led to the first Confederate officer to die in the war. A monument to the officer, Capt. John Quincy Marr, stands outside the courthouse. The monument faces north, as do the two Civil War cannons on either side of the monument.

Those are some of the tidbits Jenée Lindner, president of Friends of the Historic Fairfax Courthouse, shared Wednesday at the courthouse during a lecture titled, “Who Was the Fairfax Family? The Colonial History of Fairfax County.” The lecture was part of a series of ongoing events celebrating the 275th anniversary of the county’s founding.

The county receives its name from Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron. He is the son of Thomas Fairfax, 5th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, and Catherine Culpeper, heiress to Leeds Castle, Kent, England, and of the land that would become Fairfax County. While Fairfax laid claim to the land with his marriage to Catherine, Culpeper County and the incorporated town of Culpeper, about an hour’s drive southwest of the courthouse, pay tribute to her family’s contributions to the founding and development of Virginia.

historic courthouse plaque 600Culpeper met Fairfax when he rescued her after a probate hearing during which she successfully wrested control of her inheritance from her father’s mistress, Lindner said. She was just 19 and a mob of men clawed at her following the judge’s decision. Lord Fairfax picked her up and carried her safely to her carriage. The rest, as they say, is history. (Actually, that’s history too, if you’re keeping score.)

Our nation’s first president is closely tied to the Fairfax family. The family schooled Washington in high society customs and traditions after Washington’s father died when George was 11. Washington and Bryan Fairfax, son of the 6th Lord’s cousin William Fairfax, would become lifelong friends. Bryan Fairfax also would inherit the title of 8th Lord.

Not surprisingly, Bryan Fairfax and Washington had different views of breaking with England. Bryan Fairfax strongly urged Washington not to endorse the Fairfax Resolves. He wrote a lengthy letter outlining his protests that was delivered to Washington the day of the vote, Lindner said. But Fairfax remained neutral during the war.

After the war, the two men socialized regularly. In a sign of how strong their bond was, Martha Washington asked Bryan Fairfax to be chief mourner at Washington’s funeral. Martha was too distraught to attend.

On the other hand, Washington and Mason, an instrumental pairing in the founding of the United States, rarely spoke after Mason refused to sign the Constitution over its lack of Bill of Rights, Lindner said. The eventual Bill of Rights added to the Constitution is largely based on Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was added to the Virginia Constitution in 1776. James Madison, another Virginian, ushered them through Congress. They were ratified in 1791.

Mason’s ideas also crossed the Atlantic Ocean. His Declaration of Rights influenced the French Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen, which was issued after the French Revolution. Not to be outdone, the Fairfax influence crossed the continent when Charles Snowden Fairfax, 10th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, caught the ‘49er Gold Rush fever. He and his wife, Ada, officially settled in Marin County, California, in an area now called Fairfax, California, in 1855.

Fairfax County, Virginia, has had its economic ups and downs over the centuries. It remained primarily agricultural until its growth spurt began in 1930, coinciding with the growth of the federal government under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Today its economy is diverse and international, with 400 foreign-owned companies representing 45 countries operating within its borders, along with eight Fortune 500 companies. And the county continues to influence. Celebrity database company IMDb lists 113 celebrities who were born in the county. Olympians and an astronaut also called the county home.

Although the Fairfax nobles have resided exclusively in London, England, for three generations, Nicholas Fairfax, 14th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, will cross the pond to help celebrate the anniversary with his wife, Annabel. While here, he will lecture on what Brexit means to Great Britain and the European Union. The Fairfax history and its effect on the world continues.

Additional sources:

Fairfax History – Page 1. Accessed June 1, 2017.

“History of Fairfax County, Virginia.” Accessed June 1, 2017.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at

Unleash your power TW


Remembering Our First President’s Warning on Parties

As we prepare for the peaceful transition of government in a nation divided by party, creed, economics, geography, religion, and race, it is perhaps instructive to remember this portion of George Washington’s Farewell Address:

george-washington-1731-1799-on-engraving-from-the-1800s-can-stock-photo-georgiosart-smI have already intimated to you the danger of Parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on Geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, & warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party, generally.

This Spirit, unfortunately, is inseperable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human Mind. It exists under different shapes in all Governments, more or less stifled, controuled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages & countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders & miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security & repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight) the common & continual mischiefs of the spirit of Party are sufficient to make it the interest and the duty of a wise People to discourage and restrain it.

(Excerpted from the University of Virginia, The Papers of George Washington, Farewell Address – Transcription)

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at

Complete Your Goals by Jan. 1 and Your Resolutions Are Complete

The blogosphere is inundated right now with “How to Keep Your Resolutions” tutorials and “10 Easy Goal-setting Tips,” so I won’t bore you with yet another.

White 2016 hanging by stings on a blue backgroundInstead, let’s celebrate Jan. 1 as the day of firsts. Anyone remember the first time Jan. 1 was celebrated as the New Year? They say if you remember, you weren’t really there. Who remembers the first bowling match recorded in the United States? It happened on a Jan. 1. Or the first public baths opening in the United States, which also happened on a Jan. 1?

Each of these were goals set by someone and were met on the first day of the year. Imagine accomplishing your goals on Jan. 1. You would have another 364 days before you had to do anything else!

Julius Caesar and his Roman legions were the first to peg New Year’s celebrations on Jan. 1. (See, I told you you weren’t really there.) Prior to 45 B.C., when the Julian calendar went into effect, calendars were created along the lunatic theory. The universe doesn’t adhere to human math, however. With a lunar month taking 29.53059 days—or 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 2.8 seconds—many adjustments had to be made to keep the calendar in check with the seasons. So Caesar decided to simplify things and devise a calendar on the solar year. The solar year also doesn’t conform to human time-keeping, so every four years another day had to be added to make up for the calculated 365¼ days a solar year contains.

Unfortunately for Caesar, the solar year isn’t 365¼ days, it’s 365.242199 days. By the 16th century, the calendar was all out of whack again. So Pope Gregory XIII commissioned a new calendar—the Gregorian calendar—to put us back on celestial track. It was implemented in 1582 and eliminates three of four centennial leap years to make up for the 11 minutes lost each year by universal design.

Bowling also had its ups and downs during the centuries. Bowling is said to have originated in Germany in 300 A.D. as a sin-absolving ritual. But then it became so addictive and so sinful on its own that English Kings Edward III and Henry VIII had to ban the sport to keep their subjects focused on the tasks at hand.

A year after the first recorded bowling match at New York’s Knickerbockers on Jan. 1, 1840, several U.S states also banned the sport due to gambling and racketeering. At that time, the sport sported nine pins. Our now familiar 10-pin game was instituted to circumvent those state laws. You gotta love American ingenuity.

There are no laws requiring one to take a bath, something I repeatedly tried to educate my mom on as a boy. Concerned that the poor refuse were stinking up the place, and convinced that cleanliness was as much a moral issue as a health issue, do-gooders made several attempts to open public bathhouses throughout the 19th century. On Jan. 1, 1852, the first public bathhouse reportedly opened in New York City. Unfortunately, it was a washout and the first successful U.S. bathhouse didn’t open until 1891, also in New York City.

Which brings us to Jan. 1, 2016. To celebrate this auspicious day, I will eat a Caesar salad, bellow out some Gregorian chants, bowl some gutter balls, and perhaps bathe. My goals complete, I will sleep until 2017.

Happy New Year!


January 1 Events in History. Accessed December 31, 2015.

Crockett, Zachary. “The Rise and Fall of Professional Bowling.” Priceonomics. March 21, 2014. Accessed December 31, 2015.

“Exactly How Long Is a Lunar month?” Old Farmer’s Almanac. Accessed December 31, 2015.

Glassberg, David. “The Public Bath Movement in America.” Journals@KU. Accessed December 31, 2015.

“New Year’s Day.” Accessed December 31, 2015.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

Save the Date

Clear and concise writing: It’s all very civilized

An example of cuneiform, the earliest known  writing systems of Mesopotamia, Persia, and Ugarit.

An example of cuneiform, the earliest known writing systems of Mesopotamia, Persia, and Ugarit. (© Can Stock Photo Inc. /swisshippo)

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a caption gives it context.

Videos are all the rage. But if the script is ineffective, so is the message.

Public speakers do it without notes. But the speech is written first.

To be a terrific tweeter, you must write engaging and effective headlines in 140 characters or less.

Why? Because the foundation for all effective communication is clear and concise writing.

It is also the foundation for civilization itself. So says the Metropolitan Museum of Art in its online essay “The Origins of Writing.” The essay notes that the population of southern Mesopotamia exploded in the 4th century BC. That includes Uruk, (oo-rook) which grew into the world’s first city. It is also here that we find the first examples of a written language. As the ability to communicate in written form spread, so did civilization.

As your writing becomes clearer and more concise, your message will explode too. It’s all very civilized.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

Climate change in 1789

 TIROS-N three dimensional cloud-top image of Hurricane Diana as it was strengthening from a Category III storm to a Category IV storm. This was one of the earliest three dimensional images of a hurricane from data obtained from satellite.      Image ID: spac0289, NOAA In Space Collection     Photo Date: 1984 September 11In 1789, Thomas Jefferson returned to America after a stint as minister to France. It would be another year before Samuel Slater opened the first industrial mill and launched the Industrial Revolution in America. Yet, according to Henry Wiencek in Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves, climate change was already under way.

“In a strangely modern twist,” Wiencek wrote, “Jefferson had taken note of the measurable climate change in his region: the Chesapeake region was unmistakably cooling and becoming inhospitable to heat-loving tobacco that would soon, he thought, become the staple of South Carolina and Georgia.”

Smoke that.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

Snowy DC post-inauguration

A few days after President Obama was sworn into his second term, snow began to fall on the nation’s capital. These are just a few random scenes of bunting still waving in the breeze, the bleachers still bearing witness, and tourists wondering what was going on behind those walls as I tried out my new camcorder.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at


“FRIENDS, FOES AWAIT AN ENCORE” screamed the front-page headline in today’s Washington Post.Washington Post front-page headline, Sunday, January 20, 2013: Friends, Foes Await An Encore

And therein lies the problem. President Obama has either friends or foes in America. There is little middle ground.

America’s 57th inaugural ceremony was the theme for my Toastmasters club meeting yesterday morning. Several speakers mentioned during the course of the morning that on Inauguration Day, we’re all Americans. The clear intimation of that comment is that on the other days, those who disagree with us really aren’t Americans. When it was my time to speak late in the meeting, I noted that we are all Americans every day, and we need to remember that. We are a diverse nation with diverse views, but we need to find a way to once again work with the schmucks who disagree with us and move this country forward.

The public doesn’t expect that to happen. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released a poll on Thursday that shows only 23 percent of those polled believe Republicans and Democrats will work together to move the country forward.Pew Research Center for the People & the Press poll results show public expects more partisanship. Sixty-six percent believe the parties will “Bicker and oppose one another more than usual.”

Sounds depressing. But I remain an eternal optimist. This isn’t the first time the schmucks celebrated divisiveness over diversity. In fact, our country has a proud history of bickering and opposing one another.

When I was discussing my Toastmaster mini-speech  in an email exchange with a friend later in the day, she wrote that Thomas Jefferson would be proud of me. I think not. Jefferson was one of the meanest and most underhanded politicians of his time. He quit George Washington’s cabinet in a huff because our first president favored Alexander Hamilton’s nationalistic fiscal policies over Jefferson’s agrarian policies. As vice president under President John Adams, Jefferson did everything he could to thwart Adams’ policies. And, Jefferson paid newspaper editors to paint Adams as a monarchist.

Jefferson was a pro at underhanded politics, but he wasn’t the only revolutionary schmuck. It was the way things were done. Yet our country survived and prospered. And so shall we today. We are all schmucks. The other side just has bigger schmucks. But they are Americans too.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

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